24 April, 2024
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Demons guns fire against Carlton as Oliver steps up

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Gun duo Max Gawn and Christian Petracca have fired Melbourne to a 38-point win over Carlton in their AFL community series match, as Clayton Oliver pressed his case for an opening round call-up through the reserves.

The Demons overpowered Carlton at Ikon Park on Wednesday night, winning 15.11 (101) to 10.3 (63), with Gawn (24 disposals, two goals) and Petracca (23 touches) outstanding in the engine room.

No.7 draft pick Caleb Windsor put his hand up for an early debut with two eye-catching goals on the run, Jack Viney (23 disposals, eight clearances) worked hard all day and Christian Salem did well on his return.

Carlton captain Patrick Cripps (26 disposals, seven clearances, one goal) and defender Adam Saad (26 touches) were busy, but the Blues’ defence struggled without injured leader Jacob Weitering (calf).

There was plenty of focus on the earlier reserves fixture, in which Oliver took another step towards a return at senior level with a strong midfield display.

The 26-year-old four-time best-and-fairest winner showcased his trademark qualities around the ball, brushing past opponents with ease and winning a series of clearances.

Oliver’s impressive showing came after an interrupted summer when he dealt with personal health issues and spent time away from the club.

It gave Melbourne’s coaching staff plenty to think about ahead of an opening-round meeting with Sydney at the SCG on Thursday next week (March 7).

“He went really well. The last two weeks he’s performed really strongly,” Demons coach Simon Goodwin told Fox Footy.

 Clayton Oliver (l) is loving his football and training hard, says Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

“It’s just great to see him happy and loving his footy and training really hard.

“It’s just great to have him back at the footy club and really connecting with his teammates. What happens next week we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Goodwin said Oliver is physically ready to play against Sydney but wouldn’t commit to selecting the star onballer in the season opener.

“We want to set him up for the year and make sure he’s ready to hit the year fully ready to go,” Goodwin said.

“We’ll make a decision (on opening-round selection) throughout the week.

“I want to have a chat with our leaders and want to have a chat with everyone.

“He’s physically prepared and getting going, so we’ll just have a look at how he pulls up.”

Melbourne took plenty of positives out of their convincing win over Carlton, controlling the first half and pulling away during the final term.

They were cleaner with the ball, dominated the inside-50 count (63-45) and took 20 marks inside 50m.

Carlton talls Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow finished with three goals each but fellow forward Jesse Motlop suffered a jarred toe during the first quarter and was put on ice as a precaution.

“It was tough early but I thought we got better as the game went on, which was encouraging,” Blues assistant coach Ash Hansen said.

“Our pressure got better and our ability to use the footy was really inconsistent in the first half but I thought we started capitalising on a few more plays in the second, so we progressed.”

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